Seared balsamic-glazed flatiron steaks with spinach, lemon and olive oil

Balsamic Beef with Spinach

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a new cookbook on the blog – not that we haven’t been cooking much lately, but a couple of recent & great cookbooks have been dominating the JK kitchen this Fall & Winter. The next few posts should help get us back on the track of going through the entire cookbook collection, though. This cookbook, How to Cook Meat, has been on my shelf for years and years. It’s a fun cookbook to flip through, more as a reference on which cuts of meat come from where (on various animals), and how the fat/muscle content changes how you can prepare that cut. I tend to read it more for background material, but it does have a ton of recipes, and the few that I’ve made over the years have been good (if not spectacular).

This recipe for balsamic-glazed beef, however, was both easy to make and really tasty. I have a special place in my heart for the beef and balsamic vinegar combination. When I was in college, dinner was usually two frozen corn dogs. If I was feeling particularly health-minded, I might grab a handful of salad mix from the bag and douse it in some sort of vinaigrette as a side dish. At some point a roommate got disgusted with my dinner regimen and dragged me over to the Barney’s Burgers by our house in North Berkeley. The special that night was a balsamic beef burger, and on a whim I ordered it. It had never occurred to me that a flavor that seemed so intrinsically related to salad could have any use in cooking meat. That burger was amazing though – just the right blend of tart and sweet to balance out the beef flavor. It was so good that to this day I always keep an eye out for recipes involving meat & balsamic vinegar – if it’s on the menu at restaurant Karin and I go to, there’s a good chance that’s what I’m getting.

So after the fold, we’ve got this quick recipe – reduce some balsamic vinegar, sugar and black pepper into a thick, dark sauce, pan-fry some quality steaks, and while the steaks are resting saute some spinach and garlic in the pan you used for the meat. One saucepan, one frying pan, very little time spent hovering over a stove or preparing ingredients yields a really tasty meal. That being said, the next time I make this dish I will add some potatoes or a grain to go with it – gotta have something to mop up the balsamic glaze with after you eat all the steak!

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Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon and Olives

Karin already talked about how awesome Claudia Roden’s cookbook Arabesque is here, so I won’t rehash all the nice things she had to say about it again. Suffice to say we are still enjoying it and cooking from it often.

A coworker of mine had a surplus of lemons, so when she brought a handful of them to work,  I thought I’d try my hand at a quick preserved lemon recipe in this cookbook. That turned out fairly well (recipe after the jump), but then I had a jar full of preserved lemons to use in the couple of weeks they were going to last for. I tried a handful of recipes in Roden’s book that called for them, going through about half the jar, and this was my favorite of the bunch. The sweetness of the preserved lemons balances out the saltiness of the green olives well and the whole thing comes together quickly enough to make it on a weeknight.

One note: The preserved lemons need to sit for up to four days before using them, so make sure you plan accordingly!

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Bagels!

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here, and while I’ve got some stuff in the works, I thought I’d post this photo since making these was fun and turned out so well. It’s a blog recipe, though it came from an author of one of our favorite cookbooks, so I’ll justify it in that respect. I’ve been wanting to make this recipe since right after Karin and I met and started cooking together, but never had the weekend time (or stand mixer) during graduate school to dedicate to the recipe. They turned out a bit lighter than I was expecting, but definitely delicious. The recipe is here – it would have been a lot of work to do it in one day, but spread out over two it was definitely manageable and fun.

Maybe I’ll try bialys next time…

Gazpacho Andaluz

The Cuisines of Spain
It being tomato season, I thought we’d take advantage of it and make some Gazpacho for a quick weeknight meal, and get a chance to cook a vegetarian recipe from this Spanish cookbook I got a few years back. It’s part cookbook, part guidebook for Spanish culture and food. Because of that, this is a fun book to flip through when you want to learn the origins of a particular dish, get excited about a trip abroad or learn something about how Spanish chorizo is prepared. As a reference, or when you want to find a recipe quickly, though, its less useful. Regardless, this version of gazpacho is fairly straight-forward – prep time is minimal, and as long as you’re willing to wait for the soup to chill thoroughly, this is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make.

Gazpacho Andaluz

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Patlıcan Karnıyarık (Eggplant stuffed with meat and herbs)

Turkish food has not been good for our figures.

Turkish food has not been good for our figures.

Hi friends, long time no speak. Sorry about that, but Karin and I have been a bit in flux. Many changes have happened since the last post was written in our kitchen in Austin. We packed up our house, loaded it into moving containers, and I am now writing this post from the living room of our new house in Mountain View, CA. In between the two houses, we took a two-week long trip to Turkey, drove halfway across the country, (stopping to see family in several places) and unpacked an obscene number of boxes. Including, finally, the cookbooks a couple of weeks ago.

The Sultan's Kitchen

The trip to Turkey, and an attempt to recreate some of the amazing food we had while we were there, were the main inspiration for this week’s recipe. I really like this cookbook – there’s not a lot outside of some well-designed recipes and a handful of decent photographs of the food. It’s a low-bullshit cookbook, and it covers a wide range of the different dishes of Turkey (the parchment-wrapped sea bass poached with herbs and rakı has been on my to-make list for awhile now, and the recipe for Turkish tea is the best one I’ve found to date). We bought some nice-looking globe eggplants at the Farmer’s Market last week,so I thought I’d give this recipe a shot.

Eggplant with Meat and Herbs

Turns out small globe eggplants are not the right kind for stuffing, so what I ended up with was essentially some eggplants braised in a nice Turkish meat sauce. Surely not what Özcan Ozan intended, but it was tasty nonetheless. Enjoy the recipe below – it’s good to get back to our cookbooks!

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Chicken in Green Almond Sauce & White Rice

Latin American Cooking

It was a busy last week for Karin, and a decidedly less busy one for me, so back-to-back posts is what happens in that situation. This book has been on our cookbook shelf for a couple of years now, after picking it up at a used book store. It’s an interesting read, with a ton of details, but all over the (Latin American) map. Sorry, even Karin will roll her eyes at that terrible pun. A lot of the recipes are quite involved and yield a large amount of food – the kinds of thing you might make for a weekend family meal, not for two busy people on a week night. But this recipe was small enough that Karin and I could eat it over the course of two meals, and it involved one of those twists that make me obsess over a recipe – a familiar ingredient taken out of it’s usual context and used in a completely different way. I’ll let you guess what that ingredient is, but suffice to say this dish was really good, and relatively painless. Timing-wise, it was easy to start the arroz blanco while the chicken cooled, so that both dishes finished at around the same time. The sauce turned out a brilliant lime green color, inadequately captured by our crappy camera:

Chicken with Green Almond SauceOne note: I used a heavy-bottomed stew pot for this recipe instead of the casserole and skillet, and it worked just fine – no need to clean more pots & pans than necessary, right?

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Polly’s Pancake Parlor – Kathie’s Chilled Yogurt Soup

Polly's Pancake Parlor

Up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, there’s an amazing restaurant, Polly’s Pancake Parlor, that has been around for decades serving delicious breakfast and lunches to hungry locals and tourists alike. I’ve been going to Polly’s since I was a little kid, whenever I would visit my Mom’s family in nearby Bethlehem. The routine is always the same – piling in the family station wagon/mini-van/rental car, driving along verdant, curvy New Hampshire roads, reading the roadside historical signs until suddenly we come around a curve, see the sign for the country’s first ski school and ten seconds later arrive at breakfast paradise – Polly’s Pancake Parlor! The pancakes are served in two batches of three, made fresh by your server, and you get to customize both the batter and the ingredients. Buttermilk with blueberries? Whole wheat with walnuts? Whatever you’d like. After a delicious meal of pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, or pretty much anything that is made more delicious with the addition of maple syrup, everyone lumbers outside, soaks up the beautiful view of the mountains, and poses for a picture on Trot-trot II, the wooden horse out in front of the restaurant.

Trot-trot II portrait, NH

How old does one have to be to stop posing on Trot-trot? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

The family who has run Polly’s since it opened, the Dexters, put out this small, spiral bound cookbook with recipes from the restaurant. So many of them are delicious bread and pancake-based recipes, but the one I made for lunch today is a chilled yogurt soup with a surprising kick of maple flavor. It’s a nice complement to a breakfast full of fried or griddled foods, and we usually get a bowl of it to pass around the table towards the end of our (nearly) annual pilgrimage. It’s an incredibly quick and easy recipe, basically straight from the blender to the bowl – no chopping or heating required.

Chilled Yogurt Soup

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Jennie June’s Brown Fricassee Chicken

For this week’s recipe, and perhaps due to some lingering guilt over not having a Passover Seder this year, I chose Joan Nathan’s book Jewish Cooking in America.

Jewish Cooking in America

I like this book a lot – it’s filled with equal parts recipes and stories/photographs of the American Jewish experience. Almost every recipe has a blurb of where it’s from or some historical context to set it in. For this recipe, Nathan writes that it “came from a section on Jewish recipes in Jennie June’s American Cookery Book of 1866. Jennie June Croley was one of the first American newspaper women and founder of the Sorosis Club.” Nathan has written at least a half-dozen of cookbooks that cover this same general food genre, so I can’t speak to the difference between this book and the others, but Jewish Cooking in America does have a much larger number of non-Ashkenazic recipes than I expected – it’s nice to read about Sephardic, Druze and North African Jewish food traditions, and some of the most interesting recipes are the ones with a Southern influence to them (maybe I’ll try “Baton Rouge Matzoh Balls” next time!)

This recipe was a fairly simple braised chicken dish that benefits from the tried-and-true plan of combing caramelized onions with…anything savory. It was interesting to get the flavors of allspice and mace in this dish, since I’ve only really used allspice in baking contexts before. I halved the recipe, so I used only chicken thighs – it’s easier to find 2 lbs of chicken thighs than a 2 lb chicken! We ate it with some white rice, but it would have benefited from some simple green vegetables or a salad to go with it next time. It takes about an hour from start to finish, but most of that time isn’t spent in front of the stove.

Brown Fricassee Chicken

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Mediterranean Sea Bass

Weber's Big Book of Grilling

Last week, to balance out Karin’s delicious (but vegetarian) eggplant & salad feast and take advantage of the nice Austin spring, I decided to dust the pollen and leaves off the propane grill in our backyard (thanks Alyx & Chi Chi for the long-term grill loan) and cook up some fish. I’ve had this cookbook, Weber’s Big Book of Grilling, since I picked up a charcoal grill to make a Thanksgiving Turkey with my folks four or five years ago. It’s a brand-specific cookbook, which is usually a clear sign that a cookbook will be mediocre and the recipes will include things like “Roast for 30 minutes on a Weber® AR553 grill” or ” 1 1/2 Tablespoons Heinz© pickle relish”. But this book is free of that sort of pandering and a great introduction to grilling in general – it has a wide variety of recipes beyond the usual burgers, steaks, chicken kabobs, etc., tons of good information on different types of grills, indirect vs. direct cooking, etc. – hell, the book even has a foreword by Al Roker.

The recipe I chose was a Mediterranean Sea Bass recipe. Well, for us it was a Mediterranean Red Snapper recipe, since that was the closest I could get from the store. It was an exceptionally fast and easy recipe, and it was interesting to cook with a spice (lavender) I hadn’t used before. I made this Brussels sprouts dish to go along with it, which was really tasty despite my overcooking it (good Brussels sprouts recipes that are also bacon-free are few and far between and deserve a mention). All in all, a tasty weeknight meal that is easy to cook in under an hour after work, weather and propane grill/grill pan-permitting.

Mediterranean Red Snapper

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